Patrick Dougherty: Step Right Up

October 27, 2017 - September 4, 2019

A row of giant vessel-shaped sculptures made out of sticks

The Ackland Art Museum has commissioned its first major site-specific, outdoor art installation in nearly 20 years: a “stickwork” by Chapel Hill-based artist Patrick Dougherty entitled Step Right Up. The large-scale piece—comprised of five individual stickwork sculptures—was constructed entirely of tree saplings and is on view in front of the Ackland Art Museum.

In creating Step Right Up, Dougherty was inspired by an ancient, zoomorphic pouring vessel on view in the Ackland’s galleries.

The work follows on the heels the installation of Los Trompos in front of the Ackland, and similarly activates the Museum’s outdoor public space. Visitors are invited to go inside each vessel.

The tree saplings—primarily maple and gum—used to make the piece were responsibly harvested from Duke Forest and Triangle Land Conservancy, organizations with which Patrick Dougherty has long relationships.

Media coverage: 

UNC College of Arts and Sciences
Q&A: The Daily Tar Heel
360º Video of Step Right Up’s Construction
“Well Said” Podcast with Patrick Dougherty

Owing to the organic material used and its outdoor setting, Step Right Up is a temporary installation. It is expected to be on view through August 31, 2019.

Born in Oklahoma in 1945, Patrick Dougherty was raised in North Carolina. He earned a B.A. in English from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1967 and later returned to study art history and sculpture. His first work, Maple Body Wrap, was included in the North Carolina Biennial Artists’ Exhibition of 1982. The following year, he had his first one-person show at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Over time, Dougherty developed the monumental-scale environmental works for which he is now famous. In the last thirty years, he has built over 280 of these works—around the United States and all over the world—and has received international acclaim. Some of his most recent commissions have been at the Gibbes Museum, Charleston, South Carolina; the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Durham, North Carolina; the Bay Area Discovery Museum, Sausalito, California; the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts; and the Palo Alto Art Museum, Palo Alto, California.

He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2011 Factor Prize for Southern Art, a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, a Japan-US Creative Arts Fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship.

This installation has been made possible by the hard work and participation of 188 volunteers, including UNC students, faculty, staff, and alumni; Triangle community members; and Ackland Art Museum Members and friends.